Non-Binary Mysteries 2: Solar and Lunar Symbolism

March 7, 2015 § 3 Comments

(This is my submission for Prompt #2 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)

The sun rises, dawning color and warmth into the world, nurturing and burning, illuminating and changing. It visits any given area for longer and shorter times throughout the year, rising through the sky, falling through the season. Hours and seasons are set by its movements, heating and cooling, growing and harvesting.

The sun sets.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a researcher found that people who fit solidly into the gender roles proscribed by society were far more likely to assign gender to words and objects than people who didn’t fit so cleanly into societal gender norms. Read up on Gender Schema Theory by Sandra Bem and the fascinating research and ideas within it. It’s a bit dated and incomplete, and yet it has usefulness within its limitations, like any model.

During a cognitive task study, people who were strongly gendered and gender-normative (“sex-typed” in Bem’s theory, meaning they process and integrate traits and information in line with their assigned gender, conforming to the cultural definition of what it means to be “male” or “female”) tended to remember more traits assigned with their gender role, and processed “sex-type congruent” information more efficiently… perpetually reinforcing their concept of gender normativity, a continual process of confirmation bias. When given a list of words to cluster either by semantic meaning or by gender, they were also more likely to cluster words by gender. They are “gender-schematic”.

In contrast, “cross-sex-typed” individuals (in Bem’s theory, people who processed and integrated information and traits in line with the opposite gender role from their assigned gender) had the lowest percentage of words clustered by gender, followed by “androgynous” individuals (people who process and integrate traits and information from both genders). They are “gender-aschematic”.

Strong gender-schemata provides a filter through which people process incoming stimuli… making it easier ability to assimilate information that matches the stereotypes, which further solidifies the existence of gender stereotypes. It is one model through which to approach reality, and a highly dominant one in a number of societies, enforced and reinforced throughout the culture. It is incredibly prevalent, too, in much of Neo-Paganism: Lord/Lady, God/Goddess, Male/Female, elements and correspondences all sorted into Masculine and Feminine. Sun God and Moon Goddess, in so much of mainstream Paganism.

The moon rises, lining the world in silver and shadow, the cool colors of night. The face of the moon waxes and wanes, cast in growing shadow, brightened in growing light. Months are measured by its cycles. Its pull sets the rhythms of the oceans, the tides and waves, and perhaps it even influences the rhythms of mind and heart.

What, then, for those of us who are gender-aschematic?

I am fortunate in that my tradition leans gender-aschematic, itself. Kemetic philosophy is non-dualistic and polyvalent, the One and the Many, both/and. Many seemingly contradictory things can be true all at once. There are deities with the title of “The Great He-She”. There are deities that are explicitly hermaphroditic, deities that are very male, deities that are very female, and deities that are downright sexless. There are deities that are more concept than person. There are deities that merge into one another, split into pieces, and those pieces join with pieces from other deities to make new ones, fission and fusion and fluidity.

The sun is a goddess and the sun is a god and the sun is a scarab. The moon is a child and the moon is a god and the moon is only rarely a goddess, but the gods of the moon are not strongly masculine. The sun and moon are not so much gendered as they are personified in many different ways.

The sun takes the form of scarab, cow and bull, lioness, falcon, cat and leopard, cobra, vulture, and heron. The sun is nurturer, warrior, queen, king, healer, lover, creator, avenger, guardian, mother, father, and son. The moon takes the form of ibis, baboon, and falcon. The moon is healer, defender, scribe, protector, creator, child, traveller, embracer, time-keeper, mathematician, magician, judge, mediator, arbitrator, counselor, and scientist. Both sun and moon are incredibly multi-dimensional, and go so far beyond gender.

Wepwawet is my Parent deity, and I associate Him with shadows and night – though not the moon itself. So often for me, He is gentle soothing darkness, and also an edge of mischief and unknown mystery. He is the moonlit crossroads where your shadow stretches black and long before you at the point of choice and possibility. He is a magician and something of a gambler, a warrior and a scout, the standard-bearer and guide. Yet He has never seemed strongly gendered to me, this wolf-wanderer of the ways between.

Bast-Mut is my Beloved deity, and She is most definitely the sun. She is Bast on Her throne, Bast Who is Mut, the Devouring Lady, the hunting-cat goddess crowned with uraei. She is an Eye of Ra, a title given to a number of martial or protective solar deities. Fierce yet motherly, regal yet warm, and I see Her in the kind of sun-warmth that invites basking, the sun that warms me slowly and gently down to my bones. For me, She is the revitalizing warmth of the sun, and I feel Her most strongly in the dark of winter when the sun shines forth and brings me back to life. She is joy and care, protective nurturing.

The sun has many different faces to me. There is the harsh beating sun-in-summer, Ra as King and Sun, the Apis-bull, Sekhmet’s wrath. There is the warming sun-in-summer too, Mut and Heru and Wadjet. There is the cool distant sun-in-winter, hawk and scarab, watching, becoming. There is the warm revitalizing sun-in-spring, Hethert returning from Her travels, Bast crowned in glory. There is the fading sun-in-autumn, Hethert-Nut as the Wandering Eye in Her departure.

Sometimes the moon sings to my blood, intoxicating and invigorating. Sometimes the moon is a rabbit and sometimes the moon is an ibis as Djehuty or a falcon as Khonsu. Sometimes the moon is a mystery, magic, and the hunt. Sometimes the moon is madness, its fullness corresponding with a spate of crisis in the mental health centers I’ve worked in. Always, the moon is genderless. Never have I experienced it as feminine, and never have I identified with the menstrual cycles that so much of modern mainstream Paganism associates with lunar cycles. I love the moon and thrill to the sight of it, sparking dreams and visions in my mind.

The sun is a different thing entirely. I connect so strongly to the sun, and I am keenly aware of its seasonal increase and decrease. The seasonal rites of equinox and solstice resonate with my heart and biochemistry, not for their celebration of the cycles of agriculture but rather for the marking of the sun’s departure and return. My mood brightens with sun’s presence and suffers significantly in its absence, seasonal affective disorder weighting my body and mind. The hawk in me is a solar creature, thriving in the daytime, hunting in the sun’s light. The phoenix I identify with at the core of my soul is solar above all else.

The moon sets.

The sun rises.

Non-Binary Mysteries 1: Beginnings

February 7, 2015 § 3 Comments

(This is my submission for Prompt #1 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)

It always begins with stories.

Once upon a time – was the word and the character and the question. A blank page, a blinking cursor. A dream.

I read fiction, and wondered. I looked online as my roots were torn from me with multiple cross-country moves, and found a community of fellow fans. I made my own characters, penned my own stories, and wrote collaborative fiction in the form of roleplaying.

In researching werewolves for a novel, I found therianthropy: the idea that some deep intrinsic part of a person could be a non-human animal, somehow. A shock went through my system. What if all of the metaphors in my poetry and journaling were more than allegory? Could I be a bird and a human both? Could symbols be reality?

This was the dawning of my spirituality, though I refused to see it as such, as I was striving to be all things acceptable to my parents: straight, cisgender, monogamous, Christian. I was mired in the depressive swamp of my adolescence, denying myself so desperately that the voice of my soul could only cry out in symbols, metaphors, and stories. My repressed fury turned in on myself, leaking out in self-harm and self-loathing, snarling out through anger-ridden characters. My sexuality hid itself in cautious fiction. My gender only peeked through obliquely in the genderlessness of hawk-identity (though it expressed in childhood play, too, the neutral and masculine roles I took on, the characters I identified with).

Some of my friends came out as transgender (binary and non-binary both), and the question tickled at my subconscious. I wondered, and then I denied. I buried the inkling. Yet the question kept arising, and as I ripped away from Christianity with a tearing of flesh and soul, my objections shifted from “it would be unacceptable for me” and into “I’m not genderqueer enough for it to count.”

Stories – and experiences. A beloved friend invited me to a Samhain ritual, and felt a thrumming in my core when the druids called upon Manannán mac Lir. I attended the same grove’s Yule (that life-changing event that sheared me at last from the Christian faith that hadn’t fit me for years), and I staggered at the resonance I felt when they called Heimdall.

Gatekeepers, threshold-walkers, the crossroads and the way between. Transitions, liminal spaces. Neither/nor, both/and – this has long been my space, the role I fall into again and again. The cultural context of Manannán mac Lir didn’t fit, though, and Heimdall’s Norse context was closer, but still not right.

A cat walked across my path one night around a fire, as I questioned, meditated, and called into the night for a sign. I searched for cat-gods and found Kemet, and a kind of home: non-dualism, fluid deities, a world of Seen and Unseen. I explored the Names of Netjer, and the thrumming of resonance became a thunderous sound that filled me to overflowing and shattered me into wholeness as I recognized Wepwawet, Opener of Ways.

It is a colloquial Kemetic Orthodox saying that you can learn about a deity through their children, that the children of a Name reflect the character of their Parent(s). It’s my personal experience and belief that working with an entity brings forth the elements within you that are akin to that entity. Like my Parent deity Wepwawet, I live so often in the liminal, in the in-between. My Shemsu name in Kemetic Orthodoxy is Djeriwepwawet, meaning “Wepwawet is strong”, or Djeri, “strength”. It takes strength, resiliency, and endurance to occupy the middle-place, to hold the container for transformation, to keep the threshold.

My spirituality is a complex, nuanced thing. The liminal is part of it, being other and in-between, transformation and shapeshifting. Kemetic practice and faith is another part of it, and that too is non-binary and non-dualistic, fluidity within a structure. Animism and non-human identity is another piece, as is my lack of gender, as is metaphor, archetype, and all the myriad threads of story.

Every dawn is a return to the beginning that is Zep Tepi, the Kemetic first time. Every new year, too. Every birth from the phoenix’s pyre, every death, every new exploration. This piece of writing, too, is a beginning.

To the journey.

I Believe

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

I believe there are layers of reality, there is more than just the physical, and that the subtle (energetic, spiritual, etc) reality/realities affect the psychological and spiritual, just as much as the mind affects the subtle and the physical, and just as the body affects the mind and the subtle.

I believe there are multiple explanations for any experience, and all can be true simultaneously, for the reason stated above. Are you tired all the time because you are depressed, or are you depressed because you are tired all the time due to improper nutrition, or are you tired and depressed because of an energetic blockage, or do you have an energetic blockage because you are not eating right and you are depressed? I am more likely to believe you are tired because you are depressed and you have improper nutrition and you have an energetic blockage, and all these factors must be addressed for optimal health/improvement.

I believe that mythic truth is just as valid as factual truth, especially as memory and perception are unreliable: your brain lies to you. I don’t believe we can truly, completely be certain of anything, and one’s schema and experience and functionality is far more important than whether it is literally, factually true or not. Does it have meaning? Is it aiding or not affecting functionality? Is it adding to your life experience? Then it doesn’t matter quite so much.

That said, I believe it’s important to examine one’s beliefs regularly, and to consider multiple possibilities for one’s experience, and subject experience and belief to scrutiny and logic to see if they stand up to basic reasoning. This may seem like a contradiction to my earlier statement. It’s not. I have found that as someone who favors logic over feeling, it is easy for me to lose the experience in an endless cycle of scrutiny, skepticism, questioning, and considering possibilities, going in circles again and again without ever reaching a real conclusion about things that I cannot know for certain; and in doing so I lose the emotive and personal meaning of the experience, I become actually ungrounded by completely intellectualizing my reality. Yet I have known people who have done the reverse, have gone completely dysfunctional by not examining the use or meaning or validity of their experiences or their interpretation of their experience, and lose sight of physical reality as they dive into a fantasy land.

Thus: functionality, meaning, scrutiny, balance.

I believe in a variety of spirits: spirit of place, spirit of land, spirit of plant and animal and object. I believe in gods, and gods with distinct personalities and desires and motives that must be treated as individuals even as I believe They are connected to one another and sometimes blend in and out of each other and a greater essence. I believe some gods and some spirits are involved in the lives of people and some gods and spirits just don’t give a damn, and sometimes spirits don’t give you much of a choice in the matter and demand service, and some will take your service if you are foolish enough to offer but aren’t going to seek you out.

I believe that there are many humans who contain within themselves the essence of something non-human. I don’t know what the nature of that essence is, but I have seen it, again and again, in ways I can’t deny. It may be part of being human, and some people are just more affected by that otherly-essence than others. But it is vital and it is fascinating and it is beautiful.

I believe that there is an explanation and cause for all of human behavior, but sometimes it is so layered and complex that the behavior seems inexplicable or random.

I believe in reincarnation. I believe in an afterlife of some sort, though I don’t know if it’s just continual reincarnation or if it’s a return to some cosmic all or if it’s rest in the dead-lands of one’s culture/beliefs or if it’s a combination of all of the above.

I believe that belief affects reality, and so does will because will is often just an active outward believing, and perception shapes our reality. Dragons exist. Is it because our monkey-brains remembered ancient terrible lizards and fabricated dragons out of that inkling of memory, and that mythic telling shaped spirit-stuff into dragons; or is it because dragons existed, and we experienced them on some level, and told stories about them in our myth? I bet it’s a bit of both: that there were spirits that were like dragons, and we experienced them even as we remembered a bit of giant lizards long extinct, and our perceptions did not quite match the reality of those dragon-like spirits, and they shaped themselves to our perceptions or our perceptions shaped them or both, and now there are dragons.

I believe the stories we tell ourselves and the myths we create and live are as real and important as any age-old religion.

I believe that there is truth in every myth, every faith, of some sort: personal truth, emotional truth, spiritual truth, mythic truth – something to be gleaned from every culture and every person’s story. The human experience is fascinating and wonderful even when it is terrible.


November 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Written in September 2011.

Listen close, my dear
and I will sing you a map of the world:
of living, of dreaming and dying,
with Here Be Dragons in bits of sea
and blank places about the edges
for you to fill in yourself.

Here are the tales of old:
Heracles and the Nemean lion,
Cúchulainn and the Morrigan,
Freya and her necklace,
Raven and the sun,
Amaterasu hiding in a cave –

Not real?
of course they’re real, child,
as real as you and me
as real as yesterday
as real as glass, or time, or wind.

I’m telling you a map of the world,
and it’s not a thing of ink and parchment
(though I could draw it there
in words and wonder, if you like,
but it would take a thousand libraries
to tell it all)
nor a thing of equations and formulas
but rather a thing of stories
legends, myths. . .
true things.

There are new stories, too,
bits of this map redrawn and retold;
and sometimes, very rarely,
in treasured corners, added anew.
You’ll find them in books newly published,
and in amateur scribbles on the internet,
and drawn in comics,
and written on restaurant napkins:
these are modern myths,
news or fantasy or memoir,
all valuable lines on the map of the world –

yes, even the shallow novels
with lurid garish colors that we call
tripe and fluff, and scorn as fodder
for lazy minds and dim spirits,
because even trash romances
are lipstick-smeared maps of someone’s desires,
someone’s secret shadows.

Scorn no tale,
even if it seems shallow,
even if it is hard to hear,
even if it disgusts you,
even if it enrages you.

(Especially then.)

People will say that we tell stories for survival
because it binds a community together
passes along information

little red riding hood
nearly eaten by a wolf
and so: don’t talk to strangers in the wood.

Or earlier:
stories around a fire
tribal tales
mythologizing the hunt
told for generations
so that all remember
how best to procure meat

Stories for survival
Evolutionary need
and that is why we have legends
and need to retell them.

All of these things are true –
their tale of the origin of stories
is just as real
as the ones I speak of now.

Our lives are composed of myth
sung in the stories we share
the dramas we make of the little things of each day.
I can tell you my story,
and this map I’m drawing is part of that.
You can tell me your story, then,
and we will see where our maps join,
how they overlap,
maybe fill in some of the gaps

(but leave the dragons alone
they’re real, and true;
let’s not draw over them)

and then find other tales
map a little of the alien shore of another mind
for nothing is as infinite
as the landscape
of the heart.

Guardian, Challenger, Guide

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Anpu, Guardian, Challenger, Guide
He who opens the ways
Jackal black with my heart in his hands
Waiting to be weighed.

Yinepu and Neb-Ta-Djeser

You who formed my eternal ba
Father of my self
You who know my truest Name
Let me honor you.

Guide me through the shadows of night
Challenge me in the dark
Guard me when I cannot guard myself
Open the ways of my heart.

I shall follow ma’at in word and deed
Keep my feet from isfet
Balance my heart with the Feather of Truth
I live in ma’at.

Dua Anpu, Lord of the West
I accept your challenge!
I will not flee, nor will I back away
I am your own!


This is a song to my god, Anpu (better known as Anubis). The refrain is a listing of the Names he’s known by. I used some Egyptian terms and words, so here’s translations:

  • ba: The immortal part of the soul.
  • dua: “Hail” or “honor to”. It’s the equivalent of saying “praise [deity]!”.
  • isfet: “Discord”, “Wrong”, “entropy”. It’s sort of like the concept of “evil”, only not quite.
  • Khenti-Imentiu: Name of Anpu meaning “Foremost of the Westerners”. The Egyptian lands of the dead were perceived to be in the west.
  • Khenty-Seh-Netjer: Name of Anpu meaning “Presider over the Gods’ Pavilion”.
  • Imy-ut: Name of Anpu meaning “He Who is in the Place of Embalming”.
  • ma’at: “Right”, “balance” and “Truth”. It’s sort of like the concept of “good”, only not quite.
  • Neb-Ta-Djeser: Name of Anpu meaning “Lord of the Sacred Land”.
  • Tepy-Dju-Ef: Name of Anpu meaning “He Who Is Upon His Mountain”.
  • Wepwawet: Name of Anpu meaning “Opener of the Ways”.
  • Yinepu: Name of Anpu meaning “Divine Child”.

A Pleasing Offering

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in July 2006.

“Why do you worry so much?” a friend asked after my ramblings on researching and writing a daily rite. “Offering is offering, right? I don’t think the gods care so much about what’s offered as they do about the attitude it’s offered in.”

“I know that,” I said, brushing it off before going right back to puzzling over a daily rite.

I didn’t really think about it till much later. In a way, my friend was right. What need have gods for chocolate and shiny things? There’s a deeper reason behind ritual, offerings, and the apparent pickiness of some deities over what they’re offered. It’s not that Anpu really can’t stand fish, or absolutely adores rum, though that may be partially the case. The core reason is the concept of sacrifice.

An offering is many things. It’s a sacrifice, a form of worship, recognition of the roles the gods play in human lives. It’s a form of prayer. In kemetic practice, it’s also communion, a shared meal and shared time.

The value of an offering is what the offerer puts into it.

It’d be easy to offer Anpu money. It’d be a sacrifice – I don’t earn a lot, and there’s all sorts of items and trips and outings I would love to spend it on instead. Yet I don’t offer Anpu money. Why not? Because it’d be easy. It requires no thought, effort, or time on my part. It’s a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of self.

Jesus knew the value of offering. The story of the widow and her two copper coins illustrates it perfectly. She offered only two small coins, and Jesus noted that she offered more than the sacks of gold given to the temple by the rich men, saying “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” She was saying with her offering that she trusted her God enough to give him all she had. Her sacrifice was a gesture of trust, a sacrifice of self, not of convenience. It’s a case of money being a valuable offering. In my situation, my living expenses, schooling, and books are all paid for by grants and scholarships – I don’t need money to survive. Giving money would be giving “out of my wealth”, to use the biblical phrasing.

I also don’t offer money because Anpu doesn’t ask for it. A pleasing offering-gift is one that shows the giver listened to what the recipient wanted. I don’t know if Anpu really likes rum chocolate or honeycomb, but it’s what he told me he wanted, so I bought it for him. Offering him only the money that those items cost would have been a lifeless offering; giving him the items showed I took the time to listen and cared enough to follow through.

Time and effort is another part of offering. I fold origami; never tried giving any to Anpu, but I’ll use this as an example anyway. I could fold a sloppy, half-assed flapping crane out of notebook paper. It would take me three minutes. Yet even if Anpu decided he wanted origami, I don’t think he’d like it. I’d probably get the “What the hell is this?” look. However, I could also hunt around and find a store with colorful, high-quality origamiy paper and then take my time folding the crane, making the creases precise and sharp. I’d likely get a much more favorable reaction from that, because it took time and effort and I put my best into making it.

An offering must also be from the offerer. I missed having tea with Anpu one day. A coworker bought me a cup of chai tea because we were all frazzled and she wanted to apologize for snapping at me. My reaction was something along the lines of Ooh! I can use this for tea with Anpu! But the instant I started my ritual routine, I got the spiritual equivalent of a wrist-slap and a stern look. ‘That was a gift to you. You neither bought it nor made it, and it was intended for you. You will not offer that.’ Oops. I must have looked a bit shamefaced as I set the cup down and apologized to the Jackal.

Another story to go with the above point: During the Yule of honeycomb and rum chocolates, I had originally bought nothing to offer to Anpu. I suppose somewhere in my mind was the idea that I’d offer him something of the ritual feast. (I was clearly not thinking.) I accompanied my boyfriend to a wonderful Italian grocery so he could pick up mead, and I halted at the door as a thought occured to me. “Crap – Anpu’s gonna want something.”

“Of course I do. You weren’t going to give me someone else’s offering, were you?”

So I got him Holland gouda cheese and Amish honeycomb honey and rum chocolates, and he was very pleased, bouncing about as Yinepu, the Divine Child. It was a good Yule, and I learned a lesson about offering.

Every time I’ve given (or tried giving, or thought about giving) an offering of convenience, I’ve gotten an unfavorable response. There was the Yule incident as described above. There was the sushi, given because it was what was in the fridge and hey, I like it, maybe Anpu would too. His distaste probably came less from some dislike for sushi and more from the fact that I didn’t check if he’d like it or not, I didn’t listen, and I put no effort of my own into it. It’s possible that there will be more incidents in the future, because I can be lazy or rushed at times and will grab for what’s convenient. That’s not a sacrifice. It’s a lifeless offering.

Finally there’s the component of offerings I believe to be most important in kemetic practice: communion. Sacrifice is different when it’s practically a requirement to use the offering. In other religions, you are truly giving up any food (and usually any items) offered. They’re burnt, thrown out for animals and plants, tossed in a well, or otherwise disposed of. With kemetism, the idea is that the gods consume the offering’s essence, its ka, and the offering’s khat or physical part is consumed by the offerer or someone close to them. If you offer food, you get to eat it. If you offer ink, you get to use it. Indeed, you must consume or use said items. There’s no possibility of going hungry because you offered a slab of meat and bread.

Therefore, communion gains importance. A hasty thoughtless offering, given without meditation or time or thought, is a poor offering. Offered food becomes a shared meal. Offered items become shared actions. When someone gives the offering, she should be spending time with the netjer, her thoughts on the one offered to, open and listening and sharing her heart.

To me, daily ritual is a time of fellowship with Anpu, the time when I get to sit down and have a one-on-one chat with the Jackal. It’s a time of reverence, yes; but more than that, it’s a time of closeness. Sure, I can chat with Anpu any time, but it’s usually like talking on the phone. Ritual is when we meet face-to-face.

So what do I see as the necessary components of an offering? I believe a pleasing offering is one that is a sacrifice of self rather than convenience; it comes from having listened and cared enough to comply with what’s wanted; it’s an offering that took time and sincere effort to provide; one that is offered in mindfulness and openness to communion and communication.

In the end, a pleasing offering is one of the heart, however that may manifest. It all sums up to sincerity.

To the Jackal’s Gate

November 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

Written in January 2006.

Anpu, called Yinepu-Wepwawet, called Anubis by the Greeks. He who is named Guardian, Challenger, Guide of the Dead. Jackal who places the heart on the Scales of Ma’at; Divine Child, Opener of the Ways…

When I started out in paganism, I knew that a lot of people had a patron god or goddess or both. Without questioning the why and how and who of it all, or where the idea of patrons came from, or the validity of it, I accepted the idea and decided I ought to figure out who my patron was. My more experienced friends (dedicated to such pleasant deities as Kali and the Morrigan) warned me, said I’d know if I belonged with someone specific. They said such things as “Trust us. Belonging to a specific deity is not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot more trials and a lot more work.” They said, “Don’t go looking unless you have to.”

I didn’t listen. I wanted to have a patron; that was normal procedure, right? I was excited about this new path, I was eager and serious, I wanted to immerse myself and do things right. I’d longed for so long to be close to God as a Christian; I’d wanted so badly to believe and be, but the closeness and faith I’d had as a kid remained always out of reach. Now I’d found something I could believe in and immerse in and feel, and I wanted more.

So I looked, kept myself open for signals and possibilities. I thought at one point I was Heimdall’s, but learned better; I thought then that I was Sekhmet’s, which led me into a flurry of research about kemetic reconstruction and Egyptian belief.

It fit. Kemetism fit me and my beliefs like nothing else I’d encountered. After a while, I came to realize that Sekhmet had served only to point me to kemetic paganism, that I’d just jumped to conclusions again. Embarassed once more by my hasty thinking, I finally heeded my friends’ advice and stopped looking for “my patron”. Instead, I focused on learning about kemetic beliefs and practices; I concentrated on my own personal growth, on fundamentals.

It wasn’t until August that the subject of personal deities came up again with a vengeance, and not of my own accord. I tried avoiding it, but any time the subject rose, I felt a restlessness in my stomach that refused to leave. I finally gave in and set about to researching deities of various pantheons, determined not to jump to conclusions in any way this time.

The research dragged on for a month and more. I refused to make any hasty decisions – or any decisions, for that matter. I felt prodded and pushed, a sense of impatience from someone or some ones. My excuses of “I need to do more research!” weren’t holding up. I finally buckled down and started narrowing down my list of possibilities.

When I got to Anpu, it was like a shockwave of recognition as I read information on the Jackal and the experiences various individuals had with him. I described my reaction in my LiveJournal:

Holy crap. It’s Anpu. At least one of them is. Yinepu/ Anpu/ Wepwawet, whatever name, but… holy crap. I’m reading the descriptions people are giving and on a lot of them, I’m sitting there going “That’s what I’ve been feeling, that’s one of the presences I’ve been sensing!” And the feeling just kept getting more intense and clear as I was reading peoples’ stories and thoughts on Anpu, to the point where I had tears in my eyes and a fullness in my chest coming out of nowhere.

It was like being embraced, almost; warm sleek jackal-body curling around my back; a canine sigh. And then, in my typical fashion: “…All right. Back up. Go through procedure. Nothing hasty.”

I tried going through a systematic process and tried looking at everything logically, dispassionately, objectively. But the decision wasn’t mine, and I had to admit that in the end. The recognition described above settled the matter in my heart; my mind was slower to realize the truth. There came a point where I had to do away with the pretense of method; had to admit that it was nothing more than pretense, and bow to the conclusion my deeper self came to long before.

A friend remarked on my usual logic, and said it seemed odd that I let intuition and instinct guide me in this matter. After all, I usually followed my head. Why was I now letting my heart lead?

I replied that logic does not solve everything, and too much reliance on logic alone can cause problems, as I’d learned the hard way. I had to listen to intuition as well as logic. Logic tempered with instinct; intuition tempered with reason. It’s a fine line.

Yes, I used feelings a lot in my narrowing down of things. I did my research and learned about each deity in consideration so that I knew precisely who I was looking at, and so I had more information to react to. But in the end the matter fell to gut reactions – because I believe that the gods choose their own. How will using solely logic help me discover which god has chosen me? There’s no real way; it takes paying attention to symbols and feelings and intuition.

If I used solely logic, I’d be reduced to picking names out of a book. Going “Hey, so-and-so sounds like someone who I could work with, and I like these various domains of this god better than these others, so I think I’ll go with this one” is… well, it doesn’t make sense to me that it would work too well. Going up to a deity and saying “Hi! I’ve chosen you to follow/ worship/ work with!” just doesn’t make much sense to me. If I believed that the gods are all just archetypes and thoughtforms, psychological tools – then yes, that would make perfect sense. Then I’d definitely pick and choose the archetype I’d work with for a while to improve myself. But that’s not what I believe.

So my path led me to the Jackal. Since accepting his call, I’ve experienced much of him, grown much, learned much – and still have a long way to go. I’ve experienced his love, his challenge, his disappointment and his approval. He guides but does not coddle. He guards his own when they are in danger that they cannot survive by themselves – but he also challenges them, allowing them to face alone those challenges they can overcome, so that they will be strong enough to someday overcome those trials they cannot currently win. He is a guide, and protects those he guides, but does not shield them from all challenges. That would be no protection at all.

My God is velvet shadow and sleek black fur; my God is alertness and silent knowing in the Hall of Two Truths; my God is jackal-laughter and child-wisdom and father-wisdom; He is ancient and proud and honor and truth, He is sternness and playfulness and innocence and understanding. So many things all at once, sometimes seeming paradoxes but never truly so.

Anpu, Wepwawet-Yinepu, Lord of the Hallowed Land…

I accept.

Divine Message Fallacy

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in July 2008.

When I was a Christian, there were many issues in the church that bothered me. One of the most aggravating, though, began with some variant of the following phrase:

The Lord gave me a message for you…”

This was followed with some holier-than-thou, well-meaning, and usually very misplaced directive on how the subject should change or otherwise live his or her life. My bad, a pastor, often gets these “messages” from people—typically elderly women with a history of meddling and judgment.

What do you say to that? “Sorry, I think you heard wrong”? That never goes over well. “But the Lord told me! Are you denying God’s authority?” Saying their meddling comes from on high (and they might even believe it does) gives their words extra weight, because after all, God is never wrong!

My father generally says, “Thank you, I’ll ask Him further about that,” then asks his God just in case it is a valid perception, essentially checks it with his own experience.

One might think that occultists and pagans wouldn’t have such issues—but in reality, it’s worse.

The problem is that there are so many avenues for this perceptual projection in a pagan worldview. In Protestant Christianity, there are 1. messages from God, 2. perception of demonic forces, and… that’s all I can think of.

In Paganism, there are the following:

  1. Channeling and/or aspecting deities or spirits
  2. Messages from deity or spirits
  3. Divination (tarot, ouija board, etc)
  4. Psychic attack
  5. Dreamwalking and astral projection
  6. Eempathy
  7. Extrasensory perception
  8. Auras and energy
  9. Past lives

…and I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

Let’s go over some of the ways these can be abused.

1. Messages from Deity

This is no different than in Christianity. Usually the meddler will get a “message” from the subject’s patron, which the subject should of course pay attention to.

I think the best way to respond to this is with a “Thank you for your concern, I’ll think on that,” and then check with your gods yourself. If you’re getting a wildly different message, the “messenger” is probably wrong.

2. Channeling or Aspecting

I have known people to channel or aspect a deity in ritual (or pretend to) and then, while still “wearing” the deity, give someone in circle the channeler’s thoughts or judgments. Sometimes the channeler will later “not remember” the “message” (because of course it wasn’t them) but say, “it must have been important, you should heed it”.

When I’m giving the person the benefit of the doubt, I’ll believe that they believe it was genuine—but unless I can get a confirmation from the deity later, on my own, in private communion, I’ll be very skeptical as to the veracity of the message. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate the contamination and distortion inherent in the vessel, no matter how well a channeler trances out. That’s if they’re not being downright consciously manipulative.

3. Divination

Getting a divination from friends who know your issues is always risky. Oracles such as tarot are subjective, and I’ve known readers to insert their own opinions of your situation into the reading, weighing it with the authority of the cards.

An example: A very opinionated friend had read tarot for me several times before, but we’d fallen out of touch for several months. We got back in contact, updated each other on our lives, and I asked for a reading. I did not tell her my question; this was her preferred style, and it provides less perceptual contamination. I asked about something she had no way of knowing about.

The reading was spot-on. I know tarot, so I was able to “read over her shoulder”, and her interpretation was solid—until halfway through, when she very clearly felt she knew what I was asking about. She started smugly inserting her own opinions on what I should do about my education in the guise of “The cards say you should…”, when my question had to do with nothing of the sort.

Not telling your topic of inquiry to the reader is one way to circumvent this, as seen above. People who know what’s going on in your life, though, can often guess; I’ve suspected my subconscious of contaminating my interpretation when I’ve read for others and figured out what they’re asking about. Getting divinations from people who don’t know you well is better.

4. Psychic Attack

This one is obnoxious and irritatingly common. Accusations of “psychic attack”, often unwarranted, have begun witch wars or made them worse. Had a bad day and you’re mad at another pagan? “They must have cursed me!” Tell all your friends! Found out that a long-time member of your circle identifies as a psychic vampire? Well, you were tired after working overtime last week… they must have fed from you against your will! Confront them in a hostile way (or, alternatively, under the guise of “I care about you, but you need to learn to control yourself”). Can’t let them get away with that, after all!

I honestly have no clue how to deal with this one. Denying it or suggesting alternative reasons for their tiredness, bad day, or other issue doesn’t always work. I’ve even heard people respond to denial with, “Well, maybe you didn’t mean to and didn’t know you did it, but you did!” If they insist on perpetuating that sort of drama, and nothing you say or do will change their mind—maybe they’re not the healthiest people to spend time with. Unless you enjoy the drama of witch wars and fractured magickal groups—in which case, please stay away from me. 😉

Sometimes all you can do is ignore the drama monger or break ties with the person entirely. Witnesses might help—someone who is energetically sensitive and can attest as to whether or not a phenomenon came from you, though that could just as easily slip into accusations of people “taking sides”. Seeking the guidance or mediation of a balanced, well-grounded elder may also help. Stay calm; if you react, the drama monger will take it as more fuel for his or her fires.

5. Dreamwalking and Astral Projection

A friend of mine who is a member of a small occult group of some note once had a stalker. This stalker learned about her membership, read up on the group, joined its forums, and started claiming that my friend had dreamwalked to him and was trying to seduce him, psychically feed on him, and other such things. He said he dreamed about her, so she must have dreamwalked to him. My friend remembered doing no such thing, and his description of her supposed astral appearance was very different from past descriptions of such by people she’d dreamwalked to on purpose. Arguments to the contrary, in private, proved useless.

This is similar to the psychic attack issue, and there’s about as much you can do—which is to say, dismiss and ignore. Alternatively, someone might claim to have dreamwalked or projected to you or to an area of interest and claim to have pertinent information. If the person shares private, personal information of yours with you, that’s a little creepy, in that stalker sort of way. Either they’re telling the truth and have been astrally spying on you, which is invasive, or they’re trying to impress you with their l337 powarz and have actually hacked your email, spied on you physically, or some other unpleasantly stalker-ish and illegal activity. In either case, you might want to report the person to the police, because one way or another, they got private information that they shouldn’t have had access to.

If the person instead shares information about a nonpersonal area of interest, check the info as best you can. Newspapers, internet, and television news channels are all potential resources. Don’t take it at face value; there are a lot of factors that influence perception, and the reports could easily be colored, distorted, or just plain fabricated.

6. Empathy

Oh boy. This one’s complex, large, and not often discussed. It’s also the one I’ve run into the most, and even been guilty of before. A sample scenario:

Are you doing okay?” asks Super Sensitive Empath, concern etched on her face.

Huh?” Odd question. You’re feeling kind of neutral, content, laid back. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

She gets that knowing look. “You don’t have to be polite with me. What’s wrong?”

Um… really, I’m fine. Doing pretty well, actually.”

A patient sigh from S.S.E. “You’re angry about something. You’re trying to hide it, but I can feel it.”

Oookay. You do a cursory check on your mental state, just to humor her. All clear. “I’m pretty sure I’m not at all angry. I’m afraid you’re wrong.”

Oops. Now Super Sensitive Empath’s oh-so-wonderful and ever-reliable senses are called into question. Now she’s got something to prove. “I can feel strong anger in you. You just really don’t want to talk about it. Tell me what’s wrong. I’m worried about you.”

Exasperation shows in your voice now, and you really just want her to leave it alone. “Nothing’s wrong!

You’re yelling,” S.S.E. says triumphiantly. “How can you tell me nothing’s wrong when it’s obvious you’re mad?” She reels a little bit. “Your anger is painful…” She’s just sooo sensitive.

There are infinite variations of this scenario, and they’re all frustrating. I’ve found no good way to handle it when the “S.S.E.” won’t accept your description of your emotional state. One can only really address the empath, and I’ll do that in a separate article, because such an address gets lengthy.

7. Extrasensory Perception

This covers a wide range of phenomena and claims, most of which are similar enough to empathy, dreamwalking/astral projection, and channeling/aspecting to not require specific elaboration. One, however, has come up often enough in my personal social circles to merit some mention: precognition.

Telling the future is a chancy business. Your mileage may vary, but my experience leads me to believe that nothing is set in stone; the future is mutable. Divination and precognition, in my opinion, perceives only the likeliest pattern. When reading the “outcome” cards in tarot, I state it as “If this pattern continues…” because a significant change in the pattern of events or pertinent individual’s behavior will generally change the outcome.

Like channeling/aspecting, supposed precognition can be used to try to influence others towards the precog’s desires. Let’s say you want to pursuer a particular romantic relationship, and a friend is jealous or thinks such a relationship will negatively impact him in some way. He has a “bad feeling about it” that you should really heed because, after all, he’s precognitive! If you don’t believe him, it’s a personal insult! Or he “has a dream that feels like it’s about the future,” and it depicted disaster if you go forward with this relationship.

Of course, since most relationships have problems from time to time, and since more relationships fail than succeed, it’s very likely that something will go wrong in the relationship at some point. If you pursue the relationship despite the jealous friend’s dire warnings, he’ll jump on the chance to say “I told you so” and “See, I really am a precog!”, ignoring the fact that all relationships have problems. If you agree with him, then he has more weight on his side for future manipulations. Walk carefully if you have a friend like this! It is even possible that the person doesn’t mean to be manipulative, and sincerely believes he’s predicting the future, but that doesn’t make it any less manipulative.

Sometimes a person might have a legitimate precognition, but it’s cloaked in symbolism and easily misinterpreted. I know one person who had a vision of a mutual friend shooting fire from his hands at a particular event, in conflict with a young man, and a girl was involved. The visionary took this literally; he believed that magic would become more powerful by the time of that event and his friend really would throw fire around. The event came, reality remained the same, but the “fire-flinger” and the young man had a bitter, heated conflict over a girl for the entirety of the event. The vision came true—but not the way the visionary thought it would.

If someone has a supposed precognition that concerns you, take it with a hefty dose of salt. Take it as an opinion, a warning from the messenger if you wish, and weigh the potential risk. It never hurts to take a more careful look at a situation, but don’t let the precognition (which may or may not be valid) make your decision for you.

8. Auras and Energy

This has much the same issues as empathy. I have known people to say that someone they dislike has “bad energy”; I have known people to be scathing towards visitors because “their energy was off that day”. Now, I will admit to feeling wary of people I’ve just met for no reason I can perceive other than energetic, but I try to give them a chance to prove me wrong. Sometimes one’s mood can influence either one’s energy or one’s perception of others’ energy. Using such perception to belittle or manipulate is, in my opinion, distasteful and poor manners. If energy bothers you, then shield. Maintain healthy boundaries.

One abuse of perception is giving someone too much information (real or distorted) about herself, thus warping or robbing her of the identity seeking/development process and contaminating her perceptions with your own. The ethics of this require individual contemplation; what I find ethically reprehensible might be no big deal to another person. If someone shares with you information he sees “in your aura”, take it as opinion and perception, but not hard fact. If he insists that you are insulting him by expressing doubt, he’s got control issues or some serious insecurities that are his responsibility to deal with.

9. Past Lives

It amuses me that an apparent pick-up line among Pagans and New Agers is “We were lovers in a past life” (or knew each other, or were related, etc). I have watched myth-making in process, where one person shares a few details of a past life, and the second person uses those as a springboard for more details, until two people (or an entire group) have woven an extensive, oft-exciting, and dramatic story that they’re emotionally and psychologically invested in.

I have also watched attempts at mythmaking, where two people admitted feelings of recognition and connection, and the younger person kept throwing out hooks and prompts for the elder to build on. “I know I knew you! Don’t you remember this vague event…?” The older person recognized what was going on and didn’t take the bait, instead asking her for details or denying remembrance (or both). The younger person floundered in response, saying such things as “I don’t remember details; don’t you remember more about this?” or making noncommittal, vague, general responses and trying more probing questions.

Just because you were with someone in a past life doesn’t mean you should be with them in this one. Some people, wanting to belong or fit in, might come up with memories (however distorted or fabricated) of friendships or other relationships with another person or group. Some might have memories of a disliked person (or object of jealousy) as an enemy in a past life and use that as justification for their dislike.

One occult group that places a good deal of emphasis on reincarnation has, I think, a healthier view. They say that they have been lovers, friends, and bitterest enemies, but they are not the people now that they once were, and those issues are then, not now.

In Conclusion…

There are unhealthily manipulative people in any group, and that includes Pagans. Many people want their opinions heard and heeded, and will (consciously or subconsciously) seek ways to give their opinions extra weight. Perception is easily distorted and contaminable, even if the experience is honest and the communication of such is well-intentioned. Be careful, question, and check others’ perceptions against your own experiences.

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